Key shifts in the Arab ‘moderates’ position on Hamas and Israel

Published by Middle East Monitor

The Egyptian, Saudi and other Arab “moderates” position on the Gaza war has been presented in most media discussion and political analysis as a striking departure from previous policy and indication of a new shift towards Israel and its view of Hamas, “resistance” and other regional challenges to the global order. The fact is, however, that their Gaza policies are the consequence of over a decade of restructuring of Arab positions to accommodate the United States. Continue reading Key shifts in the Arab ‘moderates’ position on Hamas and Israel

A case for one state – by a two-stater

A recent conference on “Israel and the changing Middle East”, organised by the Anglo-Israel Association (with a few other sponsors) offered a fascinating insight into the concerns of Zionist Israelis and their views of the historical conflict with Arab Palestinians at this point – with Oslo’s clear failure to produce a resolution while settlement building in the West Bank and extensive incorporation of the territory into the fabric of Israeli politics and society continues apace, and Gaza remains under a state of manufactured separation from its Israeli-Palestinian environs. Continue reading A case for one state – by a two-stater

Hany Abu Assad’s ‘Omar’ – Deconstructing Two States

Hany Abu Assad’s new film Omar won the best film award at the Dubai International Film Festival last week, cementing his reputation as one of the foremost Arab directors of the moment. His Paradise Now (2006) won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign language film, and it received an Oscar nomination in the same category. Omar won a jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year. So Abu Assad’s work comes with a lot of expectations. Continue reading Hany Abu Assad’s ‘Omar’ – Deconstructing Two States

Does Zionism explain the success of Israel?

Does Zionism explain the success of Israel? It might seem an odd question but it was raised by Israel Studies scholar Derek Penslar in a talk in Oxford this week which analysed the fates of several settler colonial movements. In a tour d’horizon he looked at the New England Puritans, the French in Algeria, and South Africa and apartheid. Each one was similar to Israel and yet different in crucial respects, which led to the failure of one and the dismantling of a system of racial supremacy and subjugation in another. Continue reading Does Zionism explain the success of Israel?

‘Egypt First-ism’ turns its guns on Islamists

One of the key themes the coup regime has developed in Egypt against its Islamist opponents is a rehashed version of the chauvinistic nationalism of the Mubarak regime. This involved an ‘Egypt First-ism’ vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict that gave a veneer of respectability for security paranioa over Palestinians that verged on racial hatred. The redux of this fascistic nationalism has anti-Syrian racism thrown in for extra. This nationalism emerged specifically in an Arab nationalist context, as a response to the Nasserist years with its failures. It was traditionally challenged by leftists and Arab nationalists, and lately among the youth activists behind the Jan 25 uprising. Continue reading ‘Egypt First-ism’ turns its guns on Islamists

Egypt army, Hamas and blaming Palestinians

More evidence that the Egyptian generals had been building a case against Mursi for a long time – and that their action last week was hardly a mere temporal response to the June 30 protests. A retired general told BBC World Service (English) that in the army’s view Mursi had collaborated with Hamas against Egypt, something the army noted since the August 2012 attack on an Egyptian border post in Sinai that left 16 dead. Brigadier General Ayman Salama said Mursi’s crime was to prevent the army releasing names of suspects at the time and resist army efforts to block and flood tunnels that allow Gaza to survive the Israeli blockade. The army’s view is that the tunnels must be blocked to stop jihadists and their weapons getting into Sinai. Continue reading Egypt army, Hamas and blaming Palestinians

Empire Wants What’s Best for the Arabs

The fear among international players with a stake in the Arab world that more instability threatens the political systems in place was palpable at the Doha Forum I attended last week. This even extended to the Gulf, purportedly the most stable part of the region, despite its having survived the first wave of the Arab uprisings that began in 2011. What was also striking was the idea among foreign powers that change among the Arabs can only happen through their coaching and supervision. Continue reading Empire Wants What’s Best for the Arabs

Israeli Arab wrestles with grief, guilt in suicide bomb film

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:50am EST

(Reuters) – When Universal Studios took a disliking to the script for Ziad Doueiri’s Israeli-Palestinian suicide bombing drama, the Lebanese director thought his career was over.

Six years later “The Attack” is garnering interest on the festival circuit, winning praise in Toronto, an award in Marrakech, and wowing audiences at the Dubai international film festival in the United Arab Emirates this week. Continue reading Israeli Arab wrestles with grief, guilt in suicide bomb film

Egypt’s ‘Security State’ and Israel

There was an interesting discussion on Twitter yesterday on the comparison between Egypt and Algeria, a theme that has come up after the ruling military council in Egypt dissolved parliament last week, took on legislative powers in the interim, gave the armed forces powers of arrest, set parameters of presidential power that place the military above oversight and reduce presidential control of security forces, and arrogated to itself the right to reject items in a future constitution. Media and observers brought up the Algerian military’s decision to annul elections in 1992 because of concern when it appeared that the Islamic Salvation Front would win. After that Algeria was thrown into a decade-long civil war in which tens of thousands of people died. Continue reading Egypt’s ‘Security State’ and Israel

Documentary looks at life of Palestinian leader Arafat

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:32am EST

Dec 12 (Reuters) – Associates of Yasser Arafat offer personal recollections in a documentary screened in Dubai this week on his search for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that descended into violence and failed to lead to a Palestinian state.

Figures from Arafat’s circle who entered into a historic peace process with Israel in 1993, including his wife Suha, as well as Israelis such as President Shimon Peres and activist Uri Avnery who knew him well, discuss controversial moments of a career that ended with Arafat’s unexplained death in 2004.

Arafat was depicted by his Israeli and U.S. detractors as an obstacle to bringing the peace talks to a resolution and who sought to take advantage of the violence of the Palestinian uprising which followed the breakdown of critical talks in 2000.

Peres sticks to that view in the “The Price of Kings – Yasser Arafat”, a sympathetic portrayal of Arafat by British director Richard Symons shown at the Dubai International Film Festival in which friends recall private moments.

“Without him we couldn’t start, with him we couldn’t finish,” Peres says of the Oslo peace process that created self-rule for Palestinians in territories Israel occupied in 1967. “At the last moment he didn’t take the tough decision.”

Other confidantes of Arafat, however, question those views, describing a man who took an enormous risk with a doomed bet on a peace process led by Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli in 1995.

Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew who is now Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, recounts Arafat’s gloom after Rabin’s death. Kidwa found a quiet, dejected figure when he visited Arafat in his office several days later.

“Before leaving I said something to the effect of ‘why are you so upset? Okay Rabin was an important leader, but Peres is coming and Peres has an even better position than Rabin’,” he remembers in one of the film’s most poignant sections.

“He didn’t answer me, but he gave me that look that obviously meant that I didn’t understand anything. And I didn’t, he was right, clearly.”

Shimon Peres lost the subsequent 1996 election to Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu, signaling a shift to the right in Israeli politics and a stagnation in the peace process that has lasted to this day.


Shunned by Washington and besieged by Israel in his Ramallah compound, Arafat died as the uprising was winding down. His widow is in tears as she recalls those final days.

Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas has been no more successful in moving talks forward with Netanyahu, in power once more, and Palestinians in the territories remain stateless.

Nabil Shaath, another veteran of the self-rule administrations set up through Oslo, says Arafat feared entering the final status peace talks in 2000.

He was not prepared to make the concessions Israel and the U.S. administration hoped could be secured from him quickly, Shaath says. Those talks stumbled over the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

“He was viewed by his enemies on our side as being too lenient, for giving up. Also, he created expectations that were quite opposite from the truth when it came to permanent settlement negotiations,” Shaath said.

“When he came to Camp David, and the permanent settlement, he was as tough as nails and Mr. (U.S. President Bill) Clinton did not expect that.”

The Israeli and Palestinian acquaintances interviewed acknowledge Arafat’s charisma and achievement in uniting Palestinians across political and geographical divides. But say his desire to avoid making enemies led to overlooking corruption in his administration, helping provoke the 2000 uprising.

Arafat’s many bitter opponents among Palestinian and Arab politicians and intellectuals are notably absent from the documentary, which also includes some rare footage. It is the first of 12 on world leaders from Symon’s Spirit Level Film.

Symons said this was due to the film’s focus on those close to Arafat with personal stories and a willingness to talk. He also said the work had no agenda but that it had changed some of the views he grew up with in London’s Jewish community .

“I have a better understanding of the distortion and how important it is to question that from time to time,” he said. “He lived through the most difficult, extraordinary circumstances through 60 years.”